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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My previous journal was called "Why I Gotta Trot." It was getting insanely long, so I decided to begin a new one with a new phase in my horse life.

This is Hero in May of 2018 shortly after I first ended up with him. He had recently undergone a name change from Rascal to Hero.


Hero was an off track TB who was raced at 5 several times, then retired. He ended up at a rescue, where he was rehomed three times and returned. My friend was told this was because he was still green (he was 9 years old by then), and no one had taken the time to work with him. Later I was to find out that one of the people who returned him to the rescue was a horse trainer.

My friend took him, hoping to give him some experience and then her beginner boyfriend would have a horse to ride. Unfortunately, Hero turned out to be too much horse for her boyfriend. I was the one who had put most of the riding on him in the five months she owned him, so she ended up giving him to me. I knew by then he had "issues," but had grown attached.

This is Hero more recently:

Here is a timeline of how things have changed between when I first met him in October of 2017 until now.

Oct 26, 2017-Feb 22, 2018:

My friend adopts Rascal. We think of him as being a green horse. Her beginner boyfriend get tossed off right away a couple of times. I mostly ride him, keeping things calm for his new owner. At first Rascal seems fairly calm - overwhelmed, and somewhat shut down. When we begin taking him out more, he starts spooking more and begins to buck at times.

He cannot really pick up canter, which I chalk up to him being green. On the lunge he canters disunited. The vet does a check, does not find anything really wrong. He does not seem to like bits but finally we try an mullen mouth Kimberwicke, which he seems to prefer.

Feb 22, 2018-June 1 2018:

I begin to notice there is more than a green horse here. I suspect serious physical issues. I wonder about SI joint damage. He acts like he has been treated like a machine. He is tense when handled and defensive. On April 20, it is decided he will not be a good match for his beginner owner. I take over ownership, knowing there may be some physical problems as well as behavioral ones, but I have grown attached. He begins to get better at understanding cues and after lots of rides responds well, although he still is spooky and bucks a lot.

June 1, 2018-August 28th, 2018:

A pattern is emerging. I notice that I can predict when he will buck, hop or kick out. He has issues especially in deep footing and going down hills. From online information, I decide he may have locking stifles. Trimming his hind hooves based on that idea seems to help a bit. The vet diagnoses him on July 18 with Intermittent Upward Fixation of Patellas. He is started on Equioxx. By the end of July, he is having rides with less bucking and even sometimes no bucking.

August 28th, 2018-Nov 21, 2018:

The trial of Equioxx is over. More riding and rehab including massage and stretching. At times he seems better, but has serious toe wear on hinds even though using boots for riding. Gradually seems to lose strength again in hind end despite exercise.

Nov 21st, 2018- March 24, 2019:

Restarted on Equioxx. I see Hero gallop for the first time on the lunge line. Suddenly, he begins using his hind end more and starts rearing under saddle. Apparently he would always have liked to rear, but was not strong enough. On Dec. 8th he gets stifles injected. By the end of December he does not seem to mind being brushed all over with a soft brush, his canter is getting stronger and there is less bucking.

Hero continues to improve and have better and better days. By spring he seems to push off with hinds in the trot with some spring and less toe drag. On the 24th of March I note in my journal “Best Ride Ever.”

March 24, 2019-Jan 2020: Many good rides. Now it seems any residual bucking and behavioral issues relate to learned behavior rather than reaction to pain. If upset or nervous, he will throw in a buck or hop. Now they are basically his “spook.” On occasion if the footing is bad or we slip on a hill, I can tell his stifles do slip and he gives a buck or kick.
By July I feel I know Hero and his reactions, and can give a reprimand if he gets too worked up, and he will settle things down again. He begins to calm down very fast, within seconds after getting upset.

Jan 2020- Aug 2020: Expressiveness has come down in intensity. He does not feel the need to displace nerves onto the handler with snapping teeth or barging, and if I brush too hard or do something he dislikes, he does not feel he has to pin his ears, glare or show over the top body language. I can tell we are communicating much better and that he has crossed another threshold of trust, really believing it is safe to go out with me unless something very scary shows up.

August 2020- present: Continuing to build a relationship, it is starting to feel like we are real partners. I’ve learned that Hero is more fearful when out alone than I realized, similar to how Amore used to be. Since he tends to stop and look more often than prance and snort, I thought he was braver than he really was. In a new environment it is easier to see. This year I am working on gradually improving on his bravery with frequent rides around a 2.5 mile route by himself.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
If you follow this journal you will also often hear about my other horse, Amore.

Amore is my Arabian mare. She has been retired for several years now due to back arthritis, and will turn 30 years old in several months. She has Cushing's disease, which is being treated with Prascend and she is doing very well. She is a bit tottery, and far quieter than she used to be, due to her age. Amore remains very sweet, loves to walk down the road to find good grass, hangs out with Hero and likes being scratched all over.

There is an ebook on Amazon about Amore called "Round Pen, Square Horse." I wrote it to chronicle my experiences training my first horse, who turned out to be a very tricky one. When I bought Amore as an untrained adult horse, she was extremely reactive and spooky. She taught me thousands of things about horses, and helped build the foundation that has helped me work with other difficult horses.

She is still a beauty in her old age, and never had a mean bone in her body - towards humans. She has always detested small animals that came into her space and would try to maim or kill them.

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks, glad to hear moving the journal will make it easier.

Today was a bit of a "perfect storm." I'm continuing to push out Hero's comfort zone with progressively longer ridden forays into the unknown.

When I arrived at the barn, I kept hearing a high pitched squeal. At first I thought it might be an elk, but then thought someone might be weaning a foal.

The barn owner drove by and stopped to say hello. Both she and her husband often scold/tease me about working too hard. They want me to know they don't expect me to keep the manure picked up on all the field, none of the other boarders clean more than just the sheds, etc.

I asked if someone was weaning a foal. Apparently an 8 month old Mustang colt just moved in to one of the lower corrals. He was hand-raised after his dam died, and just adopted by (I'm sure you can guess...) someone who has never had a horse before! Of course. Well, I told the barn owner I was available if they needed help. Of course I am imagining a new horse person with @Knave's little Queen. Bottle fed no less.

Walking Hero down the road was fine. We passed by the colt who was quiet for the moment. Hero stopped to stare at the little guy who seemed very tiny. We pushed a little farther into new territory, turning around at a field of (friendly? Squealy) horses. Hero displayed himself from all angles, as he does, showing how buff he is. I don't mention to him that the winter fluff does not appear to be all muscle this year.

Heading back up the road, a UPS truck sat idling. Dark was settling down and it was a scene from Hero's worst nightmare. The monster growled and no less than ten lights (monster eyes) pierced toward us through the night.

It was impossible to ride past. The monster held Hero mesmerized in its gaze. I got off and led Hero. He was in a state of shock. Instead of turning around, the monster came roaring past us.

Foolishly, I remounted. Hero thought trotting might help. For some reason I thought it might too. We caught a glimpse of the truck in the far distance and Hero dropped back to a walk.

At this critical juncture, baby colt started crying again. Amore up the hill decided baby was crying for her and came tearing out of her shed hollering. I say holler because Amore has a very deep and loud voice. I've thought she could work at a 1 (900) number for horses. Amore's outburst sent Mocha, the next horse over galloping around his field.

Hero lost his grip and spooked hard; left, right, up, sideways. I was riding a big hump. The hump stopped for a split second and I scrambled off. Hero blew a snort to raise the dead. I quickly walked him up toward Amore, who was still hollering and running. The UPS truck rattled back down the road.

Two minutes later everyone suddenly stopped hollering, squealing and running. Hero lipped at me and lowered his head, and I proceeded to walk him the rest of the planned route. A peaceful calm dropped down around us, and we moseyed along, then back to the field. Within moments it was all quiet except for the chewing of hay, creaking frogs, rats scrabbling in the rafters and the plop-plopping of manure.

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I'm working on a book about training and working with problem horses. Well, this is my idea of fun.

Since a book doesn't allow for discussion, I want to get thoughts on some opinions I have.
I've talked about how people commonly use the term "holes" in the training of a horse. It is something I dislike, because I believe when I first started working with horses it led me astray. I'm not saying someone should go out and train a horse without experience or knowledge. If you don't know how to handle a horse or ride, you will have no idea what you want the horse to learn how to do. If you don't have a good knowledge of horse body language and communication, the horse will end up frustrated.

But I think talking about training holes implies there is a single way to train a horse, or certain things that all horses must learn. Horse training has always fascinated me, and I've always been a sort of "rail monkey." Everywhere I've been, if someone is training a horse or giving a lesson, I'm drawn to the rail where I'll stand for long periods of time, just observing. I've had the advantage of being at a few barns where various trainers worked horses. Plus I've known quite a few people who trained their own horses.

These experiences have given me the opinion that there are very many ways to train horses. I think if a person assesses that a horse has holes in their training, it is because the horse does not know how to do something that they would expect a horse to know in their style of handling or riding. But does that necessarily mean their style is "the" way or the correct way? What I dislike is the impression that leaving out teaching a horse something that you believe they should know is what leads to problem horses. But I've met a lot of very well behaved horses that were trained in very eccentric ways.

An example is a friend of mine who has trained about a dozen horses. When I've ridden with her, she has had to explain to me how her horses are ridden. She rides on a loose rein, and does not contact the bit. Her horses respond to rein cues, meaning when you pick up a rein, that is the signal for turning rather than bit pressure or neck pressure. She also does not put the leg on the horse below the knee, and the horses move through gaits by voice commands. They turn when you pick up a rein and change the weight and/or squeeze with your upper thigh. These horses don't shorten or lengthen gaits, and they never gallop. But when you say walk, trot or canter, they will immediately transition into that gait either up or down, and will stay at a consistent rhythm in that gait until you say otherwise. The horses do not know how to move away from your lower leg, but they turn fairly sharply and easily when you pick up a rein, and if you pick it up higher they turn faster and sharper. The horses can lead, tie, be groomed, bathed, trailered, all the usual stuff.

So do these horses have holes in their training? They certainly don't know how to move their shoulders or hindquarters away from your leg. They wouldn't appreciate it if you pulled on the bit or tried to push them forward by squeezing your calves. Yet they are very good citizens, not problem horses, and all the ones my friend has had so far she's kept until they died. I believe if she had to rehome a horse, they would be confused by other riders but would easily learn a new system.

Another trainer I know uses bitting rigs to train the horses to always carry themselves with their head and neck in a certain posture, which she adjusts based on the aesthetics of the horse's conformation. These are show horses. They learn to always move into soft bit pressure, but to pull their head back with muscle tension so the pressure remains minimal. They are ridden with hands holding the head at the proper level for the horse, and if the horse moves out of the right position, small jerking motions on the bit signal the horse to pull back farther and then the horse is let slowly back out to the correct position.

The horses learn how to turn with both direct and indirect rein cues applied subtly at the same time, along with supporting leg and weight cues. They know how to lengthen and shorten gaits, do sharp transitions, make nice circles and reverse. They will tolerate having the insides of their ears shaved, power tools used on their hooves, and hot shoeing.

Do these horses have holes in their training? They win at horse shows. If you take them out on a trail and end up in a situation where they are overly nervous, if you apply more bit pressure they will pull their heads back as they've been taught, until they can't see where they are going. Since they are used to working through bitting rigs and such, they will sometimes just keep pushing through the pressure if they get confused or frightened. They are less able to do a sudden turn in an emergency from a direct rein because their turns in the ring are more anticipated and are supposed to look smooth.

Another friend bought a horse, and we put a snaffle in and took her on a ride. She just plowed through the bit and turned awkwardly through her neck. We thought perhaps she did not have a lot of training. Except there was a photo of her online doing reining maneuvers. We put a curb bit on her and put her in the arena, where she would gallop down a line and slide to a stop if you shifted your weight back, lean back and spin if you put the rein against her neck, and lope in perfect circles.
So my opinion is that you can teach a horse anything you like. You can teach them to move off your leg or not, to direct rein, neck rein, to accept bit pressure and move into it or avoid it completely. Well trained means that the horse does what the person using him daily needs him to do. Missing certain things in training does not make horses with problems. It can be a problem if you need a horse to move away from bit pressure and they don't know how to do it. But they still may be well trained in other things, and a well adjusted good citizen.

I've known horses that were only used under saddle and did not have any groundwork done at all. The owner would catch the horse, throw a saddle on and ride. The horse know how to lead, but probably hadn't been tied in years. This was on many acres of land and the owner just ground tied in the open when handling the horse. Still a good citizen, an easy to ride horse.

Many people never lunge their horses, never teach them to sidepass or turn on the haunches or forehand.
If you skip a necessary step with a horse, you will not be able to use the horse. For example, if you skip teaching the horse to wear a saddle, you will not be able to ride with a saddle. So how can a horse even have holes in their training, if the necessary steps necessarily build on one another? Those are thoughts for the day.

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I suppose to a certain extent that you are right. Some "holes" are only holes if they affect the discipline you ride. If I am a trailer rider it's not a "hole" that my horse can't piaffe. But there are other holes that are just holes, and I don't think you can argue otherwise:
  1. Horse can't lead
  2. Horse can't be tied
  3. Horse can't trailer
  4. Horse doesn't pick up feet for picking
  5. Horse can't handle the vet or farrier
  6. Horse doesn't stand still at mounting block
OK fine, you can be like, well, a horse doesn't have to lead because I trained it to just follow me; or a horse doesn't need to be tied because I will always hold it; or I don't care if my horse doesn't stand still at the mounting block because I ground mount or I just like to jump on real fast or whatever. But IMO those are basic things that every horse should just be able to do.

You are a much more experienced person than I am, so obviously feel free to disregard. But I do think they are holes. Maybe I'd even go further, like, horse can't canter with a rider. Again, maybe you will never canter so you don't care, but that seems like a hole to me. Horse can't canter both leads. If you're going to be only trail riding maybe that doesn't matter?

And then I suppose there are things that some people consider holes that most wouldn't. I would consider it a hole to have a horse that didn't come when called. Horses being horses, of course they won't always come when called, but a horse should know my voice and come most of the time. I know a lot of people who have had horses a lot longer than I have, and they still go out to the pasture and catch their horse every time; I have to admit I don't understand why they do it. Maybe some horses just will never come? Man, there's nothing like calling your horses and having them come cantering up to you! Well, not so much when the ground is muddy and you're worried maybe they can't stop in time LOL.

I'll stop talking now...

ETA: Actually, no I won't stop talking. I taught my chickens to come when called. If I can teach chickens to come when called, surely most people can teach their horse to come when called. I really don't understand why they don't.
@ACinATX: I really like discussing things, so thank you for your comments. No worries about derailing the thread, it rambles where it will. I could call it "Down the Rabbit Hole of Horses."

I should clarify, and that's one reason why comments help me. I think it's great for everyone to have things they think their horses should know how to do. In my mind, the horse does not have a hole, but has not been trained in that area. So what you are saying is that you believe horses should know some basic things, and I agree, although I will say that does vary depending on the individual use of the horse.

What I am debating is the idea I've heard many times that mysterious "holes" in the training are the reason why a horse is behaving a certain way. I do not believe that even if your horse has not learned any of the important things you listed, that this in any way correlates to other behaviors. So for example, if a horse is spooky and jiggy under saddle, a person will look at the horse and say he has holes in his training, so he needs to be brought back into an arena and restarted from scratch. The prevalent idea is that if a step is missed, the horse will not be a good citizen. My point is that a horse can be solid in one area of training without needing other things to be in place first. A horse may be able to turn on a dime with the lightest cue from your leg, but not respond well to the bit. These things are not a ladder. The horse learns each one in turn.

If @bsms' horses do not know how to load into a trailer, that does not mean they do not lead well or respond well to bit cues.
I like the list, but was laughing to myself about the horse needing to stand still for mounting. I've trained and untrained this skill to horses. It used to be on my basic skills list, so I'd work on it with the horse. Then, because I don't actually like to have a horse stand and wait before taking off, in practice I quickly train the horse a different way. The way my horses are trained is that they stand still until the moment my seat is in the saddle, and then immediately walk off.

It is very nice to have horses come when called. Many people train their horses to not come when called, by only catching the horse for work and not giving enough rewards. Other people don't train the horses to come just because they are in a small enough area and they don't need them to. My horses come when called, but sometimes they come in veeerrrryyy slowly so I go get them instead. If I do this, then they begin to expect to be waited on like that. So I untrain it if I'm not careful. Halla very rarely came when called. Since she came to me as a horse that could not be caught, and could not even be tricked into getting caught, it was huge progress for her to eventually learn to stand and wait for me to catch her. Even then, about once a year or so she would have a day where she'd revert back to wanting to run away again for a bit. She didn't recover enough psychologically to convince herself to come to a handler, and I think a tiny part of her still wondered if it something bad would happen. But sometimes she would come if Amore or other horses decided to gallop in and she got caught up in the mood.

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Aw, thanks @knightrider! I have that problem @SueC talks about called hypergraphia. Hey, I'm in good company. I think people like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have it too, judging by the thickness of their books and amount of writing they do. But @knightrider is a great writer too, some of her writings are in the stories section of this forum. Well worth reading. She needs to be forced to turn them into e-books at least, along with some other great storytellers on here such as @Knave and @Foxhunter.

The stories I've written are for fun, but if I finish one on horse training it will definitely be free because if anyone can use anything I've had pounded into me by the excellent horse teachers I've had, they are welcome to it. Even if it makes people think about how and why they disagree, that at least gets them wondering about why the horses are like this and what better ways they have to work with them.

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
The weather was very nice here today, sunny and mid-50s. Got Hero out for a ride along the same route as last time, but went a little further. On the way back home there was a huge blue heron lurking in the water on the side of the road.

They come out of the water with such a loud sound and make the hugest shadows. I've had horses almost lie down in surprise. Luckily, this one stayed where he was.
Hero spooked a few times on the long, straight scary part of the road that goes through the woods and the swamp where the heron was.

On our way down the road I took him over to peer over the corral at the mustang colt. The colt thought about coming over to touch noses, but decided against it. Apparently the owner has not been able to touch the colt yet. Cinco's owner thinks he may not have actually been bottle fed, because he is so leery of humans. She brought Cinco down in the hope that the mare could be turned out with the colt to give him a companion and also help teach him manners. However, Cinco seemed to dislike the colt and he is far too tiny to risk turning them loose together.

Hero looking at his friends, Cinco the "appaloosa," who to me looks genetically thoroughbred and Smoky (on the right), who looks like a real appy. The two appys seem to like each other.

Hero is sporting his flower hackamore. We did more trotting today, which I have been waiting until he was not feeling spooky to see how he did. He did not take off in the hackamore, which is what Halla would have done. I think he likes it.


Around the corner, we were going into the sun. Later when I put both horses in the arena, they stood in the sun and dozed. I had to wake Amore up to bring her back to their field. Sweet old lady. When we got to where the RV is, Hero jumped out of his skin at a peacock that came running out from behind the shed.

Taking a break to eat. His Scoot Boots seem to be working really well on the hinds. I haven't put the blue toe straps on them yet because I need to buy some lock tight to make sure the screws don't slip.

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Yesterday I put some hay pellets in Hero's feeder. He put his nose in and started chewing with a happy expression. Suddenly I realized...wait, when did this start happening?

From the time that I got Hero he was always food defensive. When you put out hay or grain, he'd always pin his ears and make threatening faces. I've met many horses that did this, many of which were well adjusted so I've always ignored it as long as they didn't crowd or directly threaten the handler.

Now I can't remember the last time I saw him do those behaviors.

To test it again, I threw more hay. Happy face. It used to be he would look grumpy. Hmm. Wonder how that happened. Somehow he feels secure about food now. Well, he is fatter.😄

Another bridge we've crossed...I realized the other day that I can ask Hero to go forward when he is scared. It used to be if he was frightened, he'd think he had to go when I asked even if he was too scared. So he'd rear or buck.

Now if I ask him he will try, and if he walks a step but is too scared he stops again. I can ask several times. If he won't keep going I know it is too scary so I get off and lead him past it.

If he's already moving he will still spook sometimes. But this is a sign to me that he is learning to communicate better and knows I am listening. He is definitely learning how to tone down his reactions.

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
I know it will get better with experience, as @bsms says.

Today had a very nice ride. For some reason I thought I wouldn't need to chatter constantly when riding a TB out alone...some I've ridden have been so courageous.

But my guy is a Hero because "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway." He is scared but he is trying heroically. It helps him if I talk nonsense, just like I had to do with the arabs.

Today I discussed with him how the horses were probably not out in the swampy fields because of the standing water, and they probably hadn't all been eaten by bears.

We talked about how the mustang colt was as small as a newborn at 8 months old. We wondered why Amore was calling after us when she had all the hay to herself.

I also told him I was not allowed to get off on the scary part of the road because I just wasn't. He listened very well and tolerated the shiny headlights of a couple cars. Only one small spook.

The supplement called 4cyte arrived (recommended by @Acadianartist) so I tried giving a dose to Hero. Unfortunately, he really hated the taste. I tried mixing with treats but he wouldn't eat the treats. Amore thought it was fine. I syringed a dose into Hero. Since I don't have anyone to dose him for me I'll have to try an experimental regimen with a bigger dose every three days. If it doesn't work, oh well, that's the best I can do.

The barn owner said a couple days ago another boarder called her, worried Hero might be colicking. He pawed and then rolled, several times. She watched him all day but saw nothing abnormal. I felt bad they were worried, and told her Hero often paws and rolls three or four times in a row for good measure.

I was reading an endurance book called "But it wasn't the horse's fault!" by Julie Suhr. Fun read but some sad parts too.

One thing that really interested me was that she gave a few examples of horses that got lost on rides. If horses are near home, they will go home. If they are away from home, they will run and hide. I guess my friend's horse was really smart because when we lost her she ran back to the horse trailer.

Scared horses do not feel comforted by strange horses, sometimes not even buddies. They will hide in bushes and not make a sound even when other horses pass by 50 feet away. You really have to hunt to find them, and on their own they will soon die if not found. Sad but a good thing to know.

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
I mix the 4Cyte in Harley's food. He hated it at first too (it really does taste awful - I accidentally got some on my fingers and tried it), but now he doesn't care. Initially, I would sprinkle cinnamon on his food with the 4Cyte, so he thought it was a treat. He loves cinnamon on anything. It's messy stuff too... but it has made such a difference in Harley that we will likely keep him on it forever.
Maybe if I keep syringing it to him several times, he'll get used to the flavor. I will give it a try. I'd really like to give it a good trial. Great reviews online.

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Poor Hero. I took him out in the rain yesterday, and although I tried to tell him it was only sprinkling, it really was raining (i.e., sit on the saddle and feel like you wet your pants). He was extra spooky, so I rode very little and mostly led him. We went farther than before, over a scary bridge with no railings, and I wanted to make sure nothing happened if I rode that detracted from the courage building of the experience. Such as me falling off and him running back home. I'm not sure why it was more frightening than usual, but it might have been the sound of the rain on the various tin roofs of the shelters we passed by. Or the gloom that made the other horses in their various fields seem like lurking monsters with glowing eyes. Still, he mostly walked nicely and there were long periods where he seemed relaxed. Progress.

I'm just finishing a book I'm surprised I haven't read yet. "Horse People" by Michael Korda. I've seen the book before, but for some reason thought it was a fiction book with a deceptively horse-related title. Such as "All the Pretty Horses." It's actually non-fiction and is all about horses. It was in the horse section at a used book store, which is why I finally looked inside.

It has some interesting stories, and had some good quotes I liked. In particular it is quite funny when the author goes hunting in New England and I'm sure he is exaggerating, but makes it sound like he's just hanging on for dear life while his horse hurls himself over massive jumps, and meanwhile everyone praises him for being a daring rider.

Here are a couple quotes:
"It's hard to describe the intense camaraderie that develops between people who ride together in all kinds of weather, sometimes soaking wet, or numb with cold, or close to heat-stroke, or the kind of closeness that comes from watching somebody you know get bucked off a horse, or seeing them fail to negotiate a jump with disastrous consequences."
I can relate!

"Most horses (there are exceptions) are not ill-natured, but any animal that weighs over a thousand pounds and can put an iron-shod hoof down on your toes without noticing it, or kick you out of sheer indifference or annoyance, or pin you against the wall of its stall with its full weight, or give you a good, hearty bite when you're least expecting it, is not to be treated carelessly, or looked after by people who don't know what they're doing. And, on the whole, a great many horses are looked after by people who don't know what they're doing, to the detriment of both species."

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Lots of people who live here don't like to get wet either. It's hard to be a true outdoors person on the coast without tolerating rain.

Great ride on Hero today. There was a big storm that blew through and cleared away all the rain, so we had a dry ride. We went farther than ever and he was much less spooky than the last time.

Hero cracks me up because he walks at the exact same methodical pace going away from home or back toward it. An unusual trait in my experience.

The mustang colt was following his owner around his pen (she was carrying food) so that seemed good.

I used the kimberwicke on the ride. Hero prefers the flower hackamore, but he is harder to turn in it so it gives me less confidence. I also prefer the Renegade boots on him. The Scoot boots have great qualities but require a more exact fit. I might like them better on another horse, but they slip around a little on him and he could not go any smaller. He just has weird TB hooves.

My field is still looking great so I'm proud. There is only a small area of what I call "poup" in front of the horse shelters. It is what the last boarder created by not cleaning up manure, which meant it mixed with the sand put down there and decomposed. When it rains enough it creates a soupy slurry.

Many people have told me over the years that if they turn horses out here in the PacNW when it is raining hard it will ruin the fields. Now I see that is not true, if certain things are done.

My two horses on an acre have lots of green grass and no mud except for the 10×6 poup area they walk around and avoid.

What is needed is not that difficult. First you have to feed enough hay so the horses don't eat the grass down. You have to feed the hay under shelters with rubber mats so the horses don't make mud. You need to put the water trough somewhere away from the hay on ground that drains. You also need to pick up the manure several times a week. I'm not sure why people are willing to clean all the poo when they keep horses in stalls but not clean paddocks. It is the same amount of poop.

Anyway, I am pleased it is not an impossible task here.

A big secret to healthy hooves in the constant wet is avoiding filth such as manure or mud mixed with urine and manure.

Other boarders do have muck and mud.

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
I've "finished" my book on training problem horses. I wanted it to be a free ebook, but Amazon won't let books be listed completely free, so the cheapest I could go was 99 cents. I believe it will be free for some people who have KindleUnlimited.

Of course this book is merely some thoughts on training that are a snapshot of this moment in time. The more time we spend with horses, and the more horses we know, the more we learn and revise techniques. This is more a discussion of philosophies and strategies rather than a step by step book.

In my opinion, what people train horses to do will be very different depending on what they do. @DanteDressageNerd may be training a difficult horse to do dressage, while @Knave might be teaching how to be a working cow horse, and @knightrider could be bringing the horse on trails. Just some examples of some on the forum who have experience working with difficult horses, but use them for very different things.
So to me it wouldn't be helpful to give a step by step process on how to teach a horse skills, because horses can be used for entirely different things. Rather, I believe there are certain things that can help when working with any difficult horse, no matter the discipline or what you are thinking of doing with them.

This book may have ideas that could help someone with less experience, but if a person does not have a baseline of working with horses they will not be able to attempt training a problem horse with any degree of safety. My thought is that it will be fairly boring to most, around 30,000 words, and mainly the information might help a niche group of horse people.

It doesn't illustrate concepts, and only has a few pictures of my own horses. Perhaps at some point I could find a way to be more illustrative.

I am always open to criticism, debating of ideas or concepts, etc. That is one way I learn and grow. As well, when I've read books written by the most wonderful and skilled horse people, I've always disagreed here or there. Not because of arrogance, I just believe everyone's experiences are highly individualized and we all work with unique horses, in different environments, and with different skillsets. Something that might work perfectly for you might not work at all for me. Please feel free to disagree with my opinions wholeheartedly. But if you have good reasons for the disagreements, I would appreciate you bringing those up as a catalyst for my own critical thinking.

I wanted a rearing horse for the cover, but am not a good enough photographer to get a nice photo of Hero rearing, although I am sure getting him to rear could be arranged. My first cover I thought was fine, but DH thought it needed improving. The horse was rearing in a forest, and my DH thought on grass with a blue sky would be better. LOL. That is the extent of help I get with editing, so please let me know if you see any problems. If anyone could benefit from my experiences, I want to share, just as I learn from others. It can be hard to spot grammar issues or other strangeness that might detract from the text.

Training Problem Horses, May, Evelyn -

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Great comments!
Ha ha, Amore is getting pretty mellow at nearly 30 but she still gets snorty now and then. It helps a lot if you're a spooky horse when the cateracts obscure the vision and your hearing goes...pretty soon all those things that used to spook you go away and the world becomes a safer place.
Hero is very gentle and sweet to the old girl. When they are away from their field Amore follows him on his tail and he never kicks her. He does nip her at times, but never enough to break the skin.

I prefer real books too. I don't have a Kindle either, but look at ebooks on my laptop. Mostly if I like an ebook I try to buy the actual book so I can read it while holding it in my hand.

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
I dont really care what discipline or what someone does with their horse, so long as everyone is safe and happy. We're not better or worse than one another, so long as we have basic respect and appreciation for one another.

Hero was very forward on most of our ride today. I'm noting this because he's been on the 4Cyte supplement for a couple weeks now. It could be that the weather was dry and it was a bit cool today, or he might be feeling extra well. He ran around the field quite a bit before the ride.

I was a little frustrated because we walked through some mud and I discovered that the cables I'd recently replaced on one of the Renegade boots was not truly screwed in and so it came loose and the boot came apart. I'd just posted on here that I prefer the Renegades, so Murphy's Law was in full effect yet again.
I'd spent at least an hour fiddling and trying to get that cable in place. That is one thing that is very difficult on Renegades or Easyboots with cables. Those dang things. If I were rich I'd have tons of boots all over the place so I never had to try to fix parts.

When we were almost back to the field, something bothered Hero. He is quite funny because if he gets worried, he'll decide he can't continue forward. Even toward home, even if we're almost within sight of it. He smelled the elk, but couldn't see them. So he decided he would just not be able to make it home tonight. He thought we should just head back down the road, the way we came. I wonder what he would do if I left him. Would he eventually get up the courage, or just go find somewhere else to live?

I told him he could do it, and that it was fine, and after a short time was able to coax him forward. Once he saw the elk were in the field, he was fine.

The feed store employee was feeding some horses in a field I passed, and asked if Hero was a cautious horse. Apparently a couple visiting the feed store had walked across the road to try to get Hero to come over to the fence, and called to him, but he'd been suspicious and kept his distance. I thought that was interesting. Apparently he still doesn't trust strangers.

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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
There is a discussion on another thread about a horse that is an explosive fear reactor like Amore was, that a trainer is working with. I wanted to save my comment here so I can remember it for the future, for working with other horses like this:

"It is a good concept. Warwick Schiller calls it "too many rabbits." I think whether you call it trigger stacking, a worry cup, or too many rabbits, it's important to understand. But I don't think the solution is desensitizing to rabbits or various triggers. As this article says, it's teaching the horse to calm down after one "rabbit," or one worry. To teach the horse that whatever scares him, whether it is rabbits, saddles, horse trailers, etc, he can calm himself quickly and not get to the point of exploding.
Along for the ride: How Much Worry Can Your Horse Handle? - Warwick Schiller

If this horse truly did not show any sign of worry until the explosion, then the trainer may not know she is thinking about rabbits. That is not common, but was the way my mare was. In that case, you can't even start with the rabbits, but you have to begin with finding calm after the big explosion faster, and work your way all the way back to the rabbits.
If the horse seems to be handling things fine, walking calmly, not snorting or tensing up, etc, then all you can do is assume there are no rabbits. But then boom, the explosion. So there were rabbits but the horse wasn't telling you about them.

Improvement is getting to the point where the horse spooks in a more reasonable fashion, and begins to tell you she is thinking about rabbits. Unfortunately, this means for some horses they have to show you this fear reaction a few times to learn not to do it, otherwise it will be always lurking there waiting to happen.

It's not always that horses are taught to be shut down and not show signs of fear. It seems to be a natural although more rare type of response that the freeze/flight or fight response begins with the horse having a sort of "freeze" response externally, not showing fear until they suddenly blow up. It would be beneficial in nature, if a horse was being stalked by an animal, to show no signs of fear at all until suddenly reacting violently."

In my opinion, it's actually quite a bit better to have a horse that actively shows signs of anxiety rather than hides it until reaching the explosion point. Better to have them kicking and biting with nerves than to appear calm and then suddenly blow up. That is how I feel after working with both kinds. Otherwise you simply cannot avoid the big explosion, but you have to go there in order to help the horse stop doing it.

My friend's horse Brave is a horse that shows no signs at all of fear until suddenly he reacts. He was considered difficult to train, but my friend worked with him very slowly and painstakingly over a long period of time, always ponying him with a very courageous horse and building him up little by little. Because of this she only had to deal with him having serious reactions several times, and by the time he had them they were toned down from what they would have been if he had been truly in a panic state.

I was there once when he flung her off, and he was just standing there and then turned into a whirling dervish and she simply and immediately flew out of his vortex. However, he was able to calm quickly and those responses have lessened even more over time. When I was first riding him it was to help with his initial rides outside of an arena. His first times trotting and cantering with a rider outside, etc. He spooked once or twice and I realized this was a scary horse, because there was no way to tell he felt any worry. Still, the way my friend worked him helped put miles on him without serious issues, and he gets more solid all the time.

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
Yes, some horses are very in tune with their rider's confidence. Others are not. I rode one Arab gelding that I honestly felt like I could have taken him through anything in the world, dragging him behind my confidence. He didn't know me very well, but he definitely recognized that I was not afraid and it made him very bold too. You could feel it going all the way through to his hooves, the impact you had on him.

There are horses that have good experiences with riders and it builds them up more and more over time so they become extremely confident in any situation. Some of these believe so strongly that the world is a safe place based on their experience, that they can face anything without spooking.

I don't expect that this is achievable for every horse, because I've known a lot of horses. I completely understand how it can happen with the horse that didn't like roping. A person with fears can reinforce a horse's fears. It can be a very small fear at times. For example, my horse Amore would not jump sometimes if you had the tiniest feeling that you would rather not. If you were in it 100%, she would do it. Still, if the right thing scared her, there was absolutely nothing you could do to make her feel better about it.

A great forum member named Smilie used to post a lot about how a horse should never have an issue, once trained. I remember discussing with her that I thought every horse had a nemesis. My friends had an amazing horse named Beau. He was super calm and would spook at nothing. You could ride him in traffic, bareback and in a halter. There was only one thing in life that he feared, which they discovered one day, and that was umbrellas. Someone opened an umbrella, and he went out of his mind. No matter what, they could never get him over his fear of umbrellas. So I have a belief that every horse has an "umbrella," even if you haven't met it yet. Just like some of us have a phobia of spiders or bridges that we just can't get over.

I live off that confidence that horses need, and believe it has saved me quite a few times. Obviously I can feel fear or nerves if something really bad happens, but 99% of the time I don't, no matter what. I don't believe that confidence will cure every nervous horse, because I've also met spooky horses that just kept spooking with the most confident riders in the world. Even after all the experience I've had, my mare Amore remains the spookiest horse I've been on. She could spook multiple times on every ride.

The great thing is that over her lifetime, the spooks dwindled down to tiny startles most of the time, rather than explosive bucking or bolting. I was so used to this that I would simply laugh when she spooked. But no person could have possibly cured my mare of it. She spooked even when my great trainer friend rode her, who swears she never feels fear on a horse and I believe her. One of our members has a spooky horse named Phin, and I am certain his rider does not have confidence issues. She has ridden all kinds of horses in many situations, for thousands of miles.

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Discussion Starter · #52 ·
I was thinking about defensive riding. It made me realize that the degree of forward lean I have when riding a horse directly correlates to how much I trust them in that place and time.
I have come off a horse backward twice. It places you near the kicking end of the horse, rather than in a nice fetal-ish position near the side of the front legs, which is where you end up if you stayed ahead of the motion, even if you were ditched.

People will say to lean back, relax. It reminds me of the cartoon with advice for riding that says, "Relax! Your horse will sense if you are nervous. Never relax! Your horse can react suddenly at any time." It is very true. You have to relax and you can never be so relaxed that you're left behind.

I believe that if you are going to err, go on the side of leaning forward rather than too far back. If you're in a nice western saddle, most things the horse will do won't cause you to fall off. But I've seen people in western saddles on the beach when the horse bolted, and seen them trying to recover to a neutral position after having their weight swept back. Your lower back isn't super helpful for fighting yourself up against the force of a horse running forward. Better to be in a slight forward lean when something crazy happens, and then you'll at the worst end up at neutral or very slightly behind.

Of course you don't want your leg to slide back, if something happens. That is the trick, bending at the waist while keeping your leg forward if something bad happens. This will help you stay on during a rear, a buck, a bolt, etc. The first instinct if you go forward is to let your leg slide back, which will dump you onto the horse's neck.

It's not only english riders that use a forward defensive position when riding. If you look at a reiner in a moment in time, you might think they are behind the motion. They absolutely ride with a forward and defensive seat, with a torso angle that matches what the horse is doing in the moment.
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